The Challenge of Multilingual Customer Care

By John Meyer

There are over seven billion people in the world, speaking 7,100 languages. In North American alone, there are over 300 living languages. Consumers expect to interact with businesses in their native language, but how can organizations accommodate such a diverse requirement?

Some companies hire a small group of bilingual agents for a limited number of languages, hoping they can cover the majority of calls. However, using this method, even the largest call centers can support only a handful of different languages. Another alternative is to conference in a third-party interpreter, but this is expensive and results in longer call times and less satisfied callers. Neither of these approaches provide an appropriate solution to the increasingly wide variety of languages encountered today.

The reality for many callers is contacting a business for help, only to be unable to communicate with the agents on the other end of the line. Additionally, the dynamic nature of global languages will cause the situation to continue to worsen.

Virtual Centers Meet Multilingual Needs: Fortunately, the virtual contact center model offers a solution. Because they are not tied to a particular geographic location, virtual call centers provide clients with access to a diverse pool of resources capable of effectively interacting with callers in almost any language. This approach to meeting the multilingual needs of consumers worldwide is a key reason many Fortune 500 companies are electing to outsource customer service to virtual call center partners.

To help businesses best meet their customer needs, virtual call centers work with clients in determining what type of resources are needed. This could be agents who speak less-common languages, agents who possess specific industry certifications, or even agents with certain cultural backgrounds and dialects.

Virtualization Provides Greater Access to Agents: Virtual contact centers connect small agents to customers through a cloud-based technology network. This allows them to locate resources anywhere in the world. Imagine how much more successful a virtual center would be in finding agents with customer service experience, who are interested in travel, and who have Thai language capabilities, compared to a traditional call center that can only use agents living within a certain distance from their physical office.

In addition, the cloud-based nature of the model gives virtual centers access to educated agents who are not normally part of the workforce due to location or other responsibilities. Stay-at-home moms, bounce-back retirees, and college students who typically require flexibility are accessible to virtual centers and their clients. Also, as the adoption of high-speed broadband increases, rural or remote-located individuals are able to participate. Another consideration is military spouses who in the past had difficulty maintaining a career as they moved from base to base. Finally are veterans who offer tremendous discipline and passion for meaningful work opportunities.

Progressive companies serious about providing top-notch customer care must adopt a more inclusive approach that includes providing service to consumers in their native languages. Virtual call centers can offer the best access to a global team of agents with the skills and knowledge needed to assist customers of all languages and cultures.

Conclusion: Using a virtual call center model, companies can provide multilanguage service that connects with callers on a more personal level, resulting in faster call resolution and greater overall satisfaction. Multilingual agents have the added advantage of being able to switch between language call types if volume for one language is lower or higher than anticipated during certain times.

The world is a fascinating mosaic of coexisting cultures. While taking a one-language-fits-all approach to customer care may have worked in the past, providing service in many different languages will be necessary to retain customers and grow a business in the future.

John Meyer is co-chairman and chief executive officer of Arise Virtual Solutions Inc., a virtual solutions company. John has twenty-eight years of leadership experience in building high growth organizations in both the United States and internationally.

[From Connection Magazine September 2013]

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